The Kingdom of God in Iraq

Posted: October 8, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Greg Boyd writes in The Myth of a Christian Nation:

…the kingdom that Jesus came to establish is “not from this world” [John 18:36], for it operates differently than the governments of the world do. While all the versions of the kingdom of the world acquire and exercise power over others, the kingdom of God, incarnated and modeled in the person of Jesus Christ, advances only by exercising power under others. It expands by manifesting the power of self-sacrificial, Calvary-like love. (p. 14)

I’ve struggled with this in relation to my own responsibility for/in Iraq. I have protested infrequently and spilled much ink on how Christians in Iraq should behave — whether or not they wear a uniform — but have not found a satisfactory way of participating in the kingdom described by Boyd in community with Iraqis. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across this article about Direct Aid Iraq:

How do we evaluate our responsibility to Iraqis? I believe that we can’t evaluate it fully or forcefully unless we position ourselves alongside Iraqis, unless we are somehow in relationship with Iraqis, aware of their experiences and the hopes and fears those experiences engender, attentive to what they say they want and need.

This does not mean we must relocate to the Middle East. Being “in relationship with Iraqis,” however, may mean a careful reordering of our priorities. It means seeking opportunities to expose ourselves to Iraqi stories and perspectives, through firsthand accounts of encounters with Iraqis, public presentations, face-to-face meetings with Iraqis in our communities, and so on. It requires cultivating an openness. It means listening to Iraqis’ stories, and carrying them with us. It means a willingness to be “drawn in,” not uncritically, but in such a way that we grant the “inside” perspective the validity and centrality it deserves.

Being “in relationship with Iraqis,” may also mean a careful reordering of our assumptions. It means learning to trust that Iraqis are the best source for information about their own experiences. It means shedding the notion that the US somehow knows best what Iraq needs. No, Iraqis are the best source of information about how peace can be achieved and sustained in their country. It means shedding the notion that the US is going to rebuild Iraq. No, it is Iraqis who will rebuild their country. Do they need and deserve assistance? Of course. Does the US bear enormous responsibility to support that rebuilding? Certainly. Does the international community bear responsibility? Yes—at the very least for not mounting a stronger and more effective opposition to the invasion in the first place, a charge, in fact, that can be laid at all of our feet.

If we want to support Iraqis in building peace, we can start by genuinely facing the same difficult questions they are facing: what is my responsibility to Iraqis? How can I live it out? My own effort in this respect has lead me to conclude that Americans are best cast in a supportive role. The question for us as individuals and as organizations is the same question that our government should be weighing: who are the wisest Iraqis? What are the best plans and efforts among Iraqis, and how can we support them?

Direct Aid Iraq is one such program lead by Iraqis, with Americans in a supportive role. It began a year and a half ago, out of conversations between Americans and Iraqis in which the Iraqis were asked: if Americans could do something, what would you have us do? “We need medical care, in order to survive, in order to hold our lives together,” these Iraqi refugees told us. “We need money to pay for it.”

Read the full article.  It’s wordy, but worth it. These kinds of ventures, not the power of the sword, will be essential to building true peace in Iraq, rather than the desolation of a graveyard created by U.S. policies — the kingdom of the world’s version of “success” in Iraq.

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